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Ford Calls For Legislative Action In NJ

Published: January 18, 2019 8:22 pm ET

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Mark Ford, president of the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey (SBOANJ), has issued a statement calling on the New Jersey Legislature to act on a bill introduced four months ago that would provide $20 million to the state's horse racing industry.

Ford's statement appears below.


A testament to the horse racing and equine industry industry’s viability is that horse racing has survived on its own without state support in New Jersey. Both Pennsylvania and New York supplement the expansion of gaming within their borders to promote their horse racing industry. This has resulted in a boom in both their racing and breeding programs.

Due to New Jersey being in direct competition with these two bordering states, it has struggled to keep up the pace. Specifically, New Jersey has been unable to match the millions of dollars both Pennsylvania and New York are able to pump into purse accounts and enhancing breeding programs.

A bill introduced in the New Jersey Legislature four months ago would provide a $20 million subsidy to the industry to make it more competitive. But it has been stalled, and if the legislation isn't approved soon, it could be too late.

According to the United States Trotting Association, purse awards in New Jersey and surrounding states in 2007 were: New York $97,689,858; Pennsylvania $58,969,119; and New Jersey $68,843,978. In comparison, by 2013, New Jersey’s purse awards dropped by 54 per cent while New York and Pennsylvania purse awards increased 23 per cent and 83 per cent respectively because they had the benefit of state support.

As a 2014 Rutgers Equine Science Center report indicated, breeding also has been dramatically affected — resulting in a decrease of jobs for New Jersey residents. For thoroughbreds, the decrease for mares bred was 57 per cent, stallions 43 per cent and foals 44 per cent. The decrease for the standardbred was far more drastic; mares bred down 77 per cent, stallions down 64 per cent, yearlings in the Sire Stakes program down 54 per cent.

The horse racing industry in New Jersey has an extensive and rich history. Two New Jersey racetracks that have roots in the mid-19th century are still in operation today. Freehold Raceway was established in 1853, The Monmouth Park racetrack has been a Shore tradition since 1870. Live harness racing began at the Meadowlands in 1976.

In 2007, the New Jersey equine industry was valued at $4 billion and it produced an economic impact of $1.1 billion, comprised of the $278.2 million spent annually for racing-related operations, not including racetracks; $262.4 million spent annually by non-racing operations; $117.8 million spent annually by equine owners without operations; and $502 million spent annually by New Jersey racetracks. The industry employed approximately 13,000 persons and generated $160 million in tax revenue annually.

In 2007, there were horses in 7,200 individual facilities on 176,000 acres statewide. In the last seven years, we have lost major standardbred farms. In 2013, Perretti Farms, once the 900-acre home of elite stallions and as many as 400 first-class broodmares, closed and was forced to sell all of their horses. Without the support of the state, the farm could not contend with surrounding states that enjoy state-supplemented purses. In 2015, the 150-plus acre Showplace Farms, a premier training center for more than 35 years and home to more than 400 standardbred racehorses, closed its doors citing “fewer horses racing and the current economic climate in New Jersey.”

The industry and horse farms not only aid and protect the preservation of open space in New Jersey, they support the entire agribusiness of hay producers, straw producers, grain producers, trainers, grooms, veterinarians, equine dentists and blacksmiths. If the horse racing industry fails, these support businesses stop production and contribution to the New Jersey economy as well.

Even with all the decline within the industry in New Jersey, the Meadowlands Racetrack is still considered to be a foremost racetrack. The state stopped investing in horse racing, but the industry kept investing. Operators of the Meadowlands Racetrack opened off-track wagering (OTW) facilities in 2012 at a cost of $17 million and built a new grandstand at a cost of well over $100 million. Operators of Monmouth Park spent $7.5 million on improvements on equipment, operations and opening OTW locations. In 2014, Monmouth Park starting building a 7,500-seat concert hall and restaurant.

If racing related-activities continue to leave New Jersey, the state stands to lose its premier agribusiness that generates $780 million in economic impact annually, including jobs, federal, state and local taxes and 57,000 acres of working agricultural landscape and open space.


(With files from SBOANJ)


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